Sometimes I think the Elizabeth River was made for the WSW wind and a small boat. Today was one of those days. The forecast called for 2-8 mph wind out of the southwest, heat and humidity. I am happy to say they got it all wrong.
I could tell the wind was better than expected when I first woke up. The trees were swaying in a steady breeze. I drove to the ramp with a light overcast, the wind still showing in the flags of the Navy ships in the shipyards. Low, grey clouds edged with white hung over the river. I launched around nine and raised sail a few minutes later.
I did my morning circuit of Crawford Bay. Ten snowbirds were at anchor, mostly Canadian. I wondered what they thought of the deadrise working crab pots along the shore, the old diesel certainly in need of a muffler. The only thing louder than the diesel was the mate, a woman with bleach-blond hair wrapped in a bandana, a bit of a paunch and a cigarette hanging from her lips. She talked as much as she worked. Nobody seemed to mind. I smiled.
Late morning I picked up my daughter at Freemason Harbor. She arrived with sandwiches, sodas and a nautical looking blouse she bought just for sailing. Could you ask for more? We motored around the corner to say hello to the schooner Virginia, looking better every day.
Spartina received a nice greeting from the crew and Stefan Edick, the captain, as he sat near the wheel and and jotted in a notebook. Stefan, always friendly to the our crew, asked when I was leaving for Martha's Vineyard and the Picton Castle. He said to give the captain of the barque, a fellow captain in a very small and tight knit community, his best wishes. I will.
We spent a few hours enjoying the WSW wind, both the pure wind on Town Point Reach west of downtown and the swirling wind in the harbor that that dances around the tall buildings in unexpected, unpredictable ways. Eight or ten mph, maybe better, it was a pleasant ride. The clouds left us and it was blue skies and a fresh breeze to keep us cool. For a while I thought a boat was crowding us until I saw the crew, a friendly Dutch couple, just wanted to get a nice angle for a photograph. We obliged, then took their photograph.
After dropping off the daughter I headed back to the ramp, walking forward to bring down the jib. The deck was hot on my bare feet and I thought of the emails I had received about not wearing shoes while on Spartina. Stubbed toes, broken toes were the stories that came to me. And I also thought of the email I had received from the Picton Castle. The line "We often go barefoot" was tucked in the "what to bring section" concerning shoes. This surprised me. I have seen how the decks of tall ships are crowded with hardware and fittings. Big boat or small, I find I will be as shoeless as Joe Jackson.
The cookout was a success, though I have few photographs to prove it. Crawfish, boiled in the pot for three minutes then let to soak up the spices for 15 minutes, were a hit. Timing was crucial and the oysters took too long to cook, many were eaten raw (and I have to wonder if there is a better way to eat an oyster than uncooked and slurped with its own salty brine). Clams fit into the schedule better. Once the pot of crawfish was removed from the burner for the quarter hour steeping, clams were put on the same burner to steam until they opened, doing so just as the crawfish reached their seasoned peak.
And what to do with a few pounds of leftover crawfish? Frozen in a tub, they steamed up beautifully tonight with artichokes and rice. A perfect ending to a day with WSW wind.